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Opinion Editorial
Reality check for new EPA fuel mileage standards

By Joe Rajkovacz
OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs

 

Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are going up. Basically, those standards mean that a manufacturer’s overall new vehicle inventory – based on sales – should meet the miles per gallon standard set by the government. The recent announcement in DC to raise fuel mileage on new passenger cars and light trucks to roughly 35 mpg by 2016 is being hyped as a measure that would be environmentally friendly, reduce our dependency on foreign oil, and save consumers gazillions of bucks they’d otherwise spend gassing-up lower mileage vehicles.

I get the first two reasons, but I’m not buying the rosy economic savings Washington is ballyhooing. My reasoning is simply this: Do you really think most Americans are going to voluntarily drive sardine cans around with solar collectors on their roofs, or even something akin to a Fred Flintstone-mobile? Hardly.

The American love affair with the automobile – a large automobile (or truck) – will continue, and the easiest way to meet the new CAFE standards for manufacturers and still allow Americans the choice to purchase and drive that Caddy would be equipping it with a diesel engine.

Given a choice between the trusty old diesel and newfangled hybrid technology, many Americans will choose a diesel every time – and that should worry truckers who are dependent on diesel to fuel their rigs.

Competition in the marketplace is touted as being “good for the consumer” – but in this case, don’t count on it.

During the past few years, truckers are acutely aware that the price variance between diesel and gasoline has been dramatic – with diesel sometimes costing as much as a buck more per gallon. Increasing demand for diesel to meet the new auto CAFE standards will likely make diesel much more expensive for everybody, thus wiping out any supposed savings from the new fuel mileage standards.

Just sayin’. LL

joe_rajkovacz@ooida.com